Business & Lobbying

Financial lobby gears up effort against Obama plan

A coalition of financial services interests is in the process of organizing a major lobbying campaign against the Obama administration’s plan for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

The plans are not yet final, but among the groups and firms in the discussion are the American Financial Services Association, Financial Services Roundtable, Mortgage Bankers Association and Consumer Bankers Association, according to two industry sources familiar with the plans.

{mosads}The budget could be as high as several millions of dollars to organize grassroots opposition to the plan, launch an advertising campaign and contact congressional offices, according to one source.

The groups are hoping to get the effort up and running quickly because the administration and congressional leaders have set a tight timetable for passing legislation. They were listening to proposals on Wednesday from several advertising and grassroots advocacy firms.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration unveiled detailed plans for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would regulate consumer products such as mortgage loans and credit cards.

“We meet all the time and talk about our combined interest but the whole point of having those discussions is that we communicate a unified clear message to Congress,” said Bill Himpler, executive vice president at the American Financial Services Association. “The message we need to send to Congress in this case is we need to make sure we get it right and not rush it through.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) intends to draft and approve legislation on the agency by the August recess.

The industry argues that the agency would restrict the flow of credit and allow states to go well beyond the federal regulation, setting up a system of 50 potentially different laws. The American Financial Services Association, a trade association with 350 member companies, said when the agency was first proposed that “the idea of a government-run entity dictating which personal finance products and services can — or cannot — be made available in the marketplace is troubling.”

Labor and consumer groups earlier in June started an advocacy coalition, Americans for Financial Reform, to support plans for the agency. That group includes roughly 200 members and has a budget of $5 million.

The financial groups heard PR pitches on Wednesday from Powell Tate, Vox Global, Goddard Claussen and Direct Impact, according to two sources.

This story was updated at 2 p.m.

This story was corrected on July 7.


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